Friday, April 12, 2013

The New Sectarianism: The Arab Uprisings and the Rebirth of the Shi‘a-Sunni Divide.

The New Sectarianism: The Arab Uprisings and the Rebirth of the Shi‘a-Sunni Divide. By Geneive Abdo. Brookings, April 10, 2013. PDF.

In Syria, an Alternative Iraq. By Abe Greenwald. Commentary, April 12, 2013.

Historian Robert Caro: Today’s Conservative Media “Quite Horrible” And Venomous. By Joe Strupp.

Historian Robert Caro: Today’s Conservative Media “Quite Horrible” And Venomous. By Joe Strupp. Media Matters for America, April 1, 2013.

MSNBC’s PoliticsNation Highlights Historian Robert Caro’s Criticism Of Today’s “Quite Horrible” Conservative Media. Media Matters for America, April 2, 2013.

How Ancient Religions Can Help Us Transcend the Civilization of Greedy Money. By Ulrich Duchrow.

Aristotle warned about the dangerous illusions created by the accumulation of money, but he and other Greek philosophers also laid the groundwork for the reductionist rationality associated with capitalism. Aristotle and Plato appear at the heart of this painting, Raphael’s School of Athens.

How Ancient Religions Can Help Us Transcend the Civilization of Greedy Money. By Ulrich Duchrow. Tikkun, Spring 2013.

Fareed Zakaria’s Mideast Fictions.

No Accountability for Zakaria’s Fiction. By Jonathan S. Tobin. Commentary, April 8, 2013.

Fred Hiatt, Editorial Page Editor of The Washington Post, Goes to Bat for Fareed Zakaria, Plagiarizer and Liar. By Jeffrey Grossman. JG, Caesaria, April 6, 2013.

Obama appeals to Israel’s conscience. By Fareed Zakaria. Washington Post, March 27, 2013.

Does Israel Understand the Mideast Code of Honor? By Mitch Ginsburg.

The Middle East’s code of honor: Does Israel understand it? By Mitch Ginsburg. The Times of Israel, April 10, 2013.

Israel should be a start-up nation - for civilization and values. By Danny Schiff. Haaretz, April 10, 2013. 

The Moral Foundations of Society. By Margaret Thatcher.

The Moral Foundations of Society. By Margaret Thatcher. Imprimis, Vol. 24, No. 3 (March 1995). PDF.


The Moral Foundations of the American Founding

History has taught us that freedom cannot long survive unless it is based on moral foundations. The American founding bears ample witness to this fact. America has become the most powerful nation in history, yet she uses her power not for territorial expansion but to perpetuate freedom and justice throughout the world.

For over two centuries, Americans have held fast to their belief in freedom for all men—a belief that springs from their spiritual heritage. John Adams, second president of the United States, wrote in 1789, “Our Constitution was designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.” That was an astonishing thing to say, but it was true.

What kind of people built America and thus prompted Adams to make such a statement? Sadly, too many people, especially young people, have a hard time answering that question. They know little of their own history (This is also true in Great Britain.) But America’s is a very distinguished history, nonetheless, and it has important lessons to teach us regarding the necessity of moral foundations.

John Winthrop, who led the Great Migration to America in the early 17th century and who helped found the Massachusetts Bay Colony, declared, “We shall be as a City upon a Hill.” On the voyage to the New World, he told the members of his company that they must rise to their responsibilities and learn to live as God intended men should live: in charity, love, and cooperation with one another. Most of the early founders affirmed the colonists were infused with the same spirit, and they tried to live in accord with a Biblical ethic. They felt they weren’t able to do so in Great Britain or elsewhere in Europe. Some of them were Protestant, and some were Catholic; it didn’t matter. What mattered was that they did not feel they had the liberty to worship freely and, therefore, to live freely, at home. With enormous courage, the first American colonists set out on a perilous journey to an unknown land—without government subsidies and not in order to amass fortunes but to fulfill their faith.

Christianity is based on the belief in a single God as evolved from Judaism. Most important of all, the faith of America’s founders affirmed the sanctity of each individual. Every human life—man or woman, child or adult, commoner or aristocrat, rich or poor—was equal in the eyes of the Lord. It also affirmed the responsibility of each individual.

This was not a faith that allowed people to do whatever they wished, regardless of the consequences. The Ten Commandments, the injunction of Moses (“Look after your neighbor as yourself”), the Sermon on the Mount, and the Golden Rule made Americans feel precious—and also accountable—for the way in which they used their God-given talents. Thus they shared a deep sense of obligation to one another. And, as the years passed, they not only formed strong communities but devised laws that would protect individual freedom—laws that would eventually be enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

. . . . . . . . . .

The Moral Foundations of Democracy

Democracy is never mentioned in the Bible. When people are gathered together, whether as families, communities or nations, their purpose is not to ascertain the will of the majority, but the will of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, I am an enthusiast of democracy because it is about more than the will of the majority. If it were only about the will of the majority, it would be the right of the majority to oppress the minority. The American Declaration of Independence and Constitution make it clear that this is not the case. There are certain rights which are human rights and which no government can displace. And when it comes to how you Americans exercise your rights under democracy, your hearts seem to be touched by something greater than yourselves. Your role in democracy does not end when you cast your vote in an election. It applies daily; the standards and values that are the moral foundations of society are also the foundations of your lives.

Democracy is essential to preserving freedom. As Lord Acton reminded us, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” If no individual can be trusted with power indefinitely, it is even more true that no government can be. It has to be checked, and the best way of doing so is through the will of the majority, bearing in mind that this will can never be a substitute for individual human rights.

I am often asked whether I think there will be a single international democracy, known as a “new world order.” Though many of us may yearn for one, I do not believe it will ever arrive. We are misleading ourselves about human nature when we say, “Surely we’re too civilized, too reasonable, ever to go to war again,” or, “We can rely on our governments to get together and reconcile our differences.” Tyrants are not moved by idealism. They are moved by naked ambition. Idealism did not stop Hitler; it did not stop Stalin. Our best hope as sovereign nations is to maintain strong defenses. Indeed, that has been one of the most important moral as well as geopolitical lessons of the 20th century. Dictators are encouraged by weakness; they are stopped by strength. By strength, of course, I do not merely mean military might but the resolve to use that might against evil.

The West did show sufficient resolve against Iraq during the Persian Gulf War. But we failed bitterly in Bosnia. In this case, instead of showing resolve, we preferred “diplomacy” and “consensus.” As a result, a quarter of a million people were massacred. This was a horror that I, for one, never expected to see again in my lifetime. But it happened. Who knows what tragedies the future holds if we do not learn from the repeated lessons of history? The price of freedom is still, and always will be, eternal vigilance.

Free societies demand more care and devotion than any others. They are, moreover, the only societies with moral foundations, and those foundations are evident in their political, economic, legal, cultural, and, most importantly, spiritual life.

We who are living in the West today are fortunate. Freedom has been bequeathed to us. We have not had to carve it out of nothing; we have not had to pay for it with our lives. Others before us have done so. But it would be a grave mistake to think that freedom requires nothing of us. Each of us has to earn freedom anew in order to possess it. We do so not just for our own sake, but for the sake of our children, so that they may build a better future that will sustain over the wider world the responsibilities and blessings of freedom.

The Iraq War and the Arab Spring. By Max Boot.

The Iraq War and the Arab Spring. By Max Boot. Commentary, April 8, 2013.

The Arab Spring Started in Iraq. By Kanan Makiya. New York Times, April 6, 2013.

Did We Get the Muslim Brotherhood Wrong? By Marc Lynch.

Did We Get the Muslim Brotherhood Wrong? By Marc Lynch. Foreign Policy, April 10, 2013.

The U.S. and the Murders at the Cathedral. By Jonathan S. Tobin. Commentary, April 8, 2013.

Tired of the Brotherhood, Egyptians Want the Military Back—but Only Temporarily. By Eric Trager. The Atlantic, April 10, 2013.